A lot has changed since Buzz and Neil first stepped foot on the moon almost exactly 50 years ago to this day. Despite the current administration’s calls for a “Space Force”, there is much less of a political rallying cry around space exploration than the stars-obsessed ‘60s.
But where the public sector has slowed, the private sector has accelerated, with startups at the forefront. According to Crunchbase data, funding into space startups rocketed to over $2.3 billion in 2018.
While Elon’s SpaceX and Bezos’ Blue Origin command much of the attention, there are several up-and-comers making waves from our corner of the country. Below, we take a look at some of the Southeast’s most-promising space-related startups tackling everything from commercial spaceflight to scientific research to bringing space to us stuck here on Earth.
Cleaning up space trash
Scout Aerospace (Atlanta, GA): The team at Scout Aerospace says their long-term mission is to become the number-one manufacturer of small, light and affordable spacecraft for manned and unmanned missions between planetary bodies. First up, they’re working to develop a semi-autonomous vehicle to remove space debris in orbits that the European Space Agency has identified as high collision risks.
Enabling research in space
Space Tango (Lexington, KY): Aerospace researcher Twyman Clements founded his startup when he saw how many industries could benefit from low-gravity or zero-gravity research. Their tiny lab-in-a-box, called a TangoLab, holds 21 “CubeLabs”, each with a different experiment, and operates in microgravity.
The five-year-old Space Tango has now sent over 70 units with 120 experiments up on rockets to the International Space Station. One of their most unique clients? Anheuser-Busch solicited Space Tango to send barley seeds into orbit to provide research for the company’s aim to be the “first beer on Mars.”
Lowering the cost-per-launch — a lot
Aevum (Huntsville, AL): This rocket startup was founded in 2016 to commercialize Ravn, a small autonomous rocket-drone hybrid designed by founder Jay Skylus. The company says its mission is to “democratize access to space” by lowering the costs of carrying cargo via rocket— bringing the average $60 million of each SpaceX flight to mere thousands for a Ravn flight.
Eventually, the startup hopes that customers will be able to place a shipping order via app or phone call, send cargo via the rocket, and track their delivery through the app. Forget snail mail — this is space mail.
Simulating space on Earth
Paratus Universe (Huntsville, AL): A NASA engineer conceived of this traveling immersive space simulator which aims to educate kids and space enthusiasts. The 15-minute simulation session is designed for three people — a pilot, navigator, and commander — with several mission options.